Friday, April 19, 2013

Sugar Explained

Sugar has been known to be the cause of many serious diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Let's learn more about sugar and how it works our body.

I came across an excellent presentation titled "Sugar: Bitter Truth" by Dr Lustig of the University of California. It's long but I urge you to watch the full presentation here if you have the time, if not, do watch this 11-minute summary here:

Basic Composition of Sugar

The common table sugar is sucrose. It consists of half glucose and half fructose.

Glucose is the energy of life. It is the main source of energy for your red blood cells, nervous system, and brain. Our body can use glucose immediately as an energy source or store it in your liver and muscles for later use. We need to manage our glucose levels properly. Too little of it will lead to low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. Too much of it will cause an elevated insulin that makes the glucose to be absorbed rapidly, leaving us with blood sugar levels too low. 

"Fructose is poison," cited Dr Lustig cited. Unlike glucose, fructose doesn't get used up as energy in the body, rather it goes straight to the liver. Fructose is released so quickly into the body, causes a spike in insulin (insulin stores nutrients including fat), so fast that your brain can't see the production of leptin (a protein that regulates fat storage), which means your brain thinks you are still hungry. This is why you crave and eat even more sugar - and a vicious cycle begins. You may say that fructose is fruit sugar. Yes you are right. Taken as a whole, the fiber in fruits slows down the absorption of fructose, thus giving the liver more time to deal with fructose appropriately as it produces a gradual release of sugar into the blood. That is why fruit juice can be a problem. When you drink a fruit juice that you run through a juicer, you are getting fructose without fiber. 

I have always assumed that fat is the cause of weight gain. But I am now convinced that sugar is the enemy. A dessert lover myself, it will be hard eliminating sugar altogether but here are some steps I am going to take:

1. Eat dessert for special treats and replace daily "desserts" with fruits.
1. Eat whole fruits instead of fruit juice.
2. Avoid as much processed and packaged food as possible, therefore avoiding high fructose corn syrup.
3. Use healthier sugar alternatives.
4. Eat my main meal first (not dessert first!)

Will you join me in this journey to cut down our sugar consumption?

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